“Anglerfish” is a beautifully shot low-budget, arthouse project from writer/director Calvin Welch. While there is some narrative, it defies easy description. The narrative itself is intertwined with artistic shots, and dreamlike sequences that provide a wealth of visual stimulation, and are reminiscent of Maya Deren’s “Meshes in the Afternoon.” Additionally, it borrows much from Biblical writing and imagery
Jonathan, and his wife Mary, played by John Wilkins III (“Sure Thing,” “Bad Candy”), and Katy Wilson (“A Christmas Open House,” “A Rose for Her Grave: The Randy Roth Story”), live in a world of eternal night, with the sounds of war not too distant. They lead a simple existence, in which Jonathan chops wood, gardens, and occasionally smokes cigarettes. Mary gets water from the creek and cooks potatoes, and bread for dinner. They listen to the radio, and dance after dinner.
On one trip to fetch water, Mary discovers Juliette, played by Paula Black (“Jack Be Nimble,” “Married & Bright”), who has just lost her husband and is burying him by the creek. Mary invites Juliette to stay with them, and things seem awkward but okay for the moment as the couple incorporates Juliette into their routines.
At dinner one evening, a male presence, bathed in bright light appears. During the appearance, each person is haunted by the voices of their lost loved ones: Jonathan’s first wife, Mary’s brother, and Juliette’s husband. That night, Mary has what appears to be a dream that Juliette is gone, and has been transformed into another brightly lit being.
Mary awakes to find that Juliette is in fact gone. A series of clues seem to indicate that Juliette may have met with a gruesome fate and that Jonathan may have been involved. Mary begins to distrust Jonathan and finally decides to leave the house to look for Juliette. When she finds her, injured, Juliette is talking about desolation, and people being taken away two-by-two.
As I watch “Anglerfish” I cannot help but notice the Biblical, and religious themes utilized by the director. The “quotes” at the beginning, and end of the movie: “… the sun shall devour its own light…,” and “… the earth had become void…” read similarly to passages in the Bible. “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the deep.” (Genesis 1:2)
The opening shots are both of water, and Mary talks about the plot of land being the first one God dragged from the sea, and the last one to return to it. Similarly, the Bible reads, “And God made the firmament, and divided the waters…” (Genesis 1:7)
The warlike sounds that can be heard in the distance, and the eternal darkness are like a reference to the sounds of Armageddon, just before the rapture. Juliette even mentions “Though the righteous may die, they shall live forever, but the suffering of the wicked shall have no end.” The final scene, itself, is a depiction of the fates of mankind during the rapture.
Even the anglerfish, while corresponding to the brightly lit man, appears to be an oblique reference to Jesus as the “fisher of men.” The brightly lit man appears, and his presence heralds the voices of lost loved ones. This is the lure that leads people from the darkness.
There is no question that “Anglerfish” is an art piece. It is filled with nuances, religious imagery, twists, and turns in the story. Its Derenesque black and white visuals are haunting, and its strobelike sequences provide glimpses of human interaction, as well as disturbing imagery. For those looking for something artsy, and different in their horror, this visually stunning film could be just the right thing. For those looking for a more traditional narrative storyline, you might want to look elsewhere.